If you don’t drive a motorbike your options are a bit limited in the Thai town of Pai. There is so much to see, but there is so little to see in town. I’d already walked up to the big Buddha and checked out the pool at Fluid and I just needed to see some of that stunning scenery everyone always talks about. After checking out all the available day trips I decided to go to Lod cave. It didn’t matter which operator I chose, since they all offered exactly the same thing. So I booked one that picked me up from the hostel.
I was getting a bit nervous since the van was late. She did say pick up at the hostel right? She didn’t speak English that well. Did I misunderstand? But, a little late, the van showed up. It was full by the time we drove out of town, tackling the windy mountain roads. It took about an hour to get to Lod cave. At the cave we were divided into groups of three, since each group got their own guide. I joined an Australian couple and a woman walked us to the cave. Just before we entered she lighted her gas lamp. It was quite the process.
Inside the cave we found a beehive of people. It was rush hour inside and we had to fight off other people at times to stick with our guide. She quickly made her way over the steep stairs and rocks, with us trotting behind her, trying not to trip over the rocks. The cave was completely dark apart from the gas lights carried by all the guides. It was quite special not to have TL lights in here. Our guide would show us rock formations that looked like elephants, stalactites and stalagmites. In my opinion she went a bit too fast, because I didn’t really have time to marvel at it all. We just kept going, not wasting any time. Taking photos was a challenge, since we didn’t stop and the light was almost non-existent. At least you get an impression though!
After the first cave we went up even steeper stairs, where a lot of people were struggling. We got to the top of the cave where it was super hot and oxygen was lacking. Sweat pearls were dripping from my forehead as we walked around the rooms. It was a relief to descend again. The highlight of the cave is a short ride on a bamboo raft. Lot of boatmen are waiting for customers and swiftly take you to a different part of the cave. You sit on a little stool as you are transported through the cave’s shallow waters. All you see is what’s illuminated by the gas lights. You enter a pitch black tunnel and see all the lights in front of you. The water if filled with dozens of big fish. The air smells like guano. Above you are hundreds of bats. It’s a really cool experience, almost like you’re on a ride in Disneyland, only this is all real.
On the other side is a big entrance through which you can see the jungle. This is where our raft lands again and we climb up some guano covered stairs. We are at Coffin cave, named so because of the ancient coffins that were found here. Our guide just points them out and then points to an old drawing of a deer on one of the rock faces. There isn’t much explanation about the cave and we just stare at the end of it with the explanation “too hot!” Then we turn around, back to the raft, which will take us outside of the cave again. Even though I would have liked to have more time to look around and more information, the cave experience was really amazing. I loved the bamboo raft and the atmosphere in the huge cave. It didn’t even matter that I was one of many tourists visiting at this time.
After lunch we drove back towards Pai, stopping at a viewpoint with a gigantic four-person swing. Our second major stop was Pai hot springs. It is basically a gigantic, natural, warm pool. I wouldn’t say it is hot, but it is very pleasant even at 30 degrees Celsius temperatures. Some people were covering their faces with mud, making it a true spa experience, although the rest and peaceful atmosphere of a spa were lacking. Again, everyone got dropped off here at the same time.
We still had a quick stop at the Mor Paeng waterfall, although there was hardly any water to speak of. You have seen it in about five minutes. Then we went on to the Pai canyon, which was surprisingly pretty. It is not so much a canyon you can descend into, but more some thin strokes of land that you can walk over and a nice view point over the valley. And this is exactly why all the tours come here for sunset. It is stunning! Our guide new exactly when the sunset would be over and that was when we were expected back at the van. We had enough time to walk around and then admire the sky turning orange and red. It was a great way to end the day.